Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Girls Day Out...

No pictures of my sister in law and I getting a manicure and a pedicure.

[very interesting as I'd never had this done before in MY entire life]

We went to lunch in a town called Staunton, VA for our beauty treatment and a 'girl' lunch.

My one real regret is that my sister in law lives in Virginia and I live in Wisconsin.
Well, we get along so well together and enjoy doing things together.
This is something I don't have much where I live now.
I'm sure we'd get into all sorts of things if we lived near each other.

I feel like my time is too short here for the fun I am having.

I see that Silver, the cat, has come into the room here and has staked a claim on the end of my bed.
She is telling me that it is time to hit the sack....

What a good cat.
She'll come and stand on my head in the morning when she decides it is time to wake up.

Tomorrow looks like a busy day visiting my father's old haunts and historic downtown Charlottesville.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A stroll in Narnia

Today I went to Narnia.

Not the storybook Narnia...but the neighborhood Master Gardener's property. I strolled down a wood chip path across a small bridge to a park like area.

I chose to explore all of the paths this lady has made through her property and each time I came around a curve, I found something interesting and beautiful.

I have many photos of course, but these are just a few of the things I found interesting.

I still think my brother and sister in law have an evil plot to make my lifestyle healthier.

Joan and I went 'running' again on the 'commons'. For the first few minutes I felt as though someone had put lead weights on my legs.
After I got warmed up and was 'perspiring' or 'glowing', my old body felt so much better and we jogged along the grassy paths.

A quick shower and we were on our way to a Volleyball game in Orange County. [I think~since I have no idea where we actually went...]

This was my second opportunity to use my camera indoors.
Last night I went to the team's practice and 'practiced' indoor photography~~~
Last night's practice:

[Awesome girls, eh?]

What a huge difference to doing outdoor work.
The girls were awesome tonight [they won!] and I took 250 some photos of the game.

I enjoyed the new challenge and almost wished that I could do this more often. [The Volleyball games!]


Gosh, I think there is a manicure and a pedicure happening [never had one!] along with a nice lunch at a vineyard...then home for more 'running' and perhaps a photo session at my nephew's soccer practice?

I am being kept very busy!

...and loving every second.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Come play with me~~

Meet Bailey [I think that is how you spell her name].

She, along with Marmalade and Silver live with my brother's family here in Virginia.

Bailey~~is ... well, let's just say that she is 'independent' cat personified. She has attitude.
But I enjoyed pointing the camera at her anyway.

I skipped out the door a little before 8:30AM EST and went to play in the woods [common area] in my brother's neighborhood. You can see so much and not really have to go far.

I sat by a small pond and watched the sunlight reflect on the water.
A giant snapper turtle poked his head up out of the water ~~ he had something he was chewing on.

I was a bit repulsed but took his photo anyway. I think the snapper is cleaning the pond of 'carrion' that was in the water.
[I may post his photo later as it is still on my other camera]

Today was a wonderful day to just walk around and enjoy the warm sunshine. I took 3 hrs to just walk and explore.

Tonight I went to watch my brother coach his volleyball team and took photos of the practice.

Now~~that was interesting and fun as I'd never used my Nikon D40 inside before with a telephoto lens and was not sure of what the results would be.
I was satisfied enough to decide to 'shoot' the game tomorrow night.

GO Western Albemarle Volleyball!

Friday, September 25, 2009

See Yah!

Have a good week while I am traveling.

I'll be back next week unless I get internet access where I am going!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meet Opal

Meet Opal
Just a hair under 14 hands
Aged: 24[ish]
Red Roan with a Freckle face
Unknown heritage.

We purchased Opal in 1998 for my husband from John Higgins Sr. and Jr. from Missouri. Opal's specialty was Gymkhana and yes, she has the speed, the reining, and the moves.
Hubby competed with her against horses in our local club and had a great time.

Opal also competed as a Coon Jumping Mule and won the 56" and under Championship at the IDMS show I believe in 2000.
She has a wonderful smooth running walk which makes it hard to keep up with her [I think Siera can!!!]
She will, as my husband says, quote:
*Walk a hole in a Tornado*

She will sit down and spin if you ask her to~~and go from walk to overdrive in less that .001 seconds [kinda like a car commercial, eh?].

She is probably the MOST sure footed mule I have ever ridden [yes I have!]. I take her out in the winter when the hills and woods are very snowy and treacherous. She never takes a misstep.

Opal is our 'people handicapped' mule. She distrusts people, she may even dislike people. She is hard to catch, so we plan a day ahead of time to catch her.
Believe me, we have worked on this ever since we got her.
If she is in a paddock, she can be caught; give her an open pasture and then trickery has to come into play.

She is sometimes terribly ear shy.
She is definitely not a mule that anyone can walk up to and grab hold of.

Yet with her 'holes' and quirks, we think she is special and will never leave our place. When not climbing rocks and doing challenging rides with me or hubby, she is used for our son-in-law [who is a novice] to ride.
She dogs along like an ancient mule, but perks up if asked to. She takes care of her rider above ALL else and never hesitates to do any task asked of her.

We once considered selling her, but we decided that others may not be able to deal with her idiosyncrasies and she would end up being passed from owner to owner.

Besides, she is perfect to bring along with a young mule who needs to see what confidence is all about.
She is still not showing much of her age, and by golly, I'm not going to remind her either.
She is with us forever.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Meet Mica

Meet Mica.
14.3 hands
Aged: 13

She is a grey roan molly mule who was born on Duane and Jane Anderson's farm in Spencer, Iowa.
We first met Mica while visiting some friends in Missouri. A young man named Chris French was riding her and roping off from her.
My husband was looking for yet one more mule that could he could compete with while team penning.

Rich brought Mica home in 2001 while I was in Hawaii with my father [hmm, how convenient!].
Mica was 4 years old, flashy as you can see with her gray dapples which each summer fade to a little more white...each winter she does retain some gray.

I have not ever ridden Mica, but have done much with her. I of course, catch her and get her tacked up for hubby when I want him ~~~to git his butt moving so we can ride~~~. She has some of the best ground manners I've ever seen in a mule.

She does work cattle very well. But mostly we use her for trail riding.
She is not what I'd consider 'kid broke' unless a kid knew how to operate a mule that is a thinker and a doer. She has a sweet true western rein to her, and will do slide stops and turns.

Mica hates to be stalled alone [what mule does?]. Sometimes Mica thinks her name is 'Dammit' Mica.
She's a keeper and fun to have. She's one of those go anywhere and do most anything kind of mules.

One day I'm going to sneak out and ride her!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ride the Ride...

I got out of the trailer and began saddling up Siera for her first ever off our farm ride. We were at Wildcat Mountain State Park in Ontario, WI.

Funny, for some reason I wasn't nervous at all. I thought perhaps, I should be. But I had confidence in the ability and good common sense that this little 14 hand mule had shown me so far.

My hubby had brought his good seasoned mule, Mica.

We'd decided to take the easier trails offered at Wildcat.
Siera soon took the lead, walking with her ears flopping and eagerly looking ahead. Her pace was smooth as silk.

We rode the Red Trail, which winds up and down through the valleys and hills. In most places it is pretty wide open and two animals can ride side by side. Here is the view from on top of Johnny Cake.

When we got into some single foot tough stuff on a steep hillside, I let Mica lead the way. At first Siera seemed to want to rush going down steep hills. But this was a learning trip for her.

She learned that she could slow down and be careful on steep downhill grades.
She learned that we do NOT jump tree roots, logs, and other things across the trail. [she only had to be shown this once]
She learned to watch where her feet were being placed.
She learned poise.

WE learned:
Siera is very forward and curious.
She will lead or follow.
Strange items [such as the car in the gulley, the mule eating pine, other horses, a pile of wood, and fire rings] are worth a look, but not worth much else.

In short, she made some of our experienced mules look a bit foolish. She was quiet, well behaved, and she acted like an old broke mule.

...and finally, back at Day Camp~~she was eager to 'do it again'.

I think I am prejudiced...but oh my ~~~
I think I love this mule!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What a Nice Day.

Really it was.
I got home at 8:30ish AM from work and then decided to go straight to bed.
I got up at 1PM and felt refreshed.

Morris was giving me the eye, it said *let's go play!*

I saddled up Badger and we took off on an adventure.
I'm sure Badger had been feeling much neglected in the recent days since I'd been riding Siera so much.
Sure as ever, he picked his way on the deer trail, seeming to know exactly where I would want to go.
Morris happily followed, finding wide spots in the trail to zoom past and run ahead only to turn around and run back.

Soon enough Morris did get tired... and

asked for a 'lift' from Badger.

[okay~~not a graceful photo, but you get the idea]

Mr. Morris is sound asleep on the couch, curled up on my sweatshirt where he will stay until I come home in the morning.

I am so lucky to have such fun and dedicated animals in my life.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Each animal is different, we know this.
You cannot train animal A like animal B.

I've discovered something very different about Siera's way of thinking.

She is the first mule that I've trained off our property 'solo'. Generally we have a second rider with an older quiet mule come along.

Siera has broken all the rules in that respect.
She is quiet, confident, and an eager student.
She is willing to please and seems content with me as her company.
[this I like a LOT!]

She loves trekking down the gravel road. Cars are not monsters, tractors are curiosities, cattle are now very 'ho-hum'.

Yesterday I asked her to step off the road and into a hay field.
I think I made an error.
She stepped into the deep grass into a very small ditch of about 12".
She had a slight stumble ~~ I imagine the footing surprised her.

Guess what.
The next time I asked her to step off the road.
She refused.

At first I was frustrated, then angry...then I thought to myself.
What is she thinking?
She is thinking that I'm going to get her into 'iffy' footing again.
She's not being stubborn, or an idiot~~she is simply showing caution.

Now, I must admit, I've never ever had a mule be this cautious.
But once I dismounted and worked with her on a lead rope, and remounted~~she walked through the ditch just fine.

Further down the road I asked her to again step off the road and into a hay field. She sidestepped the tall grass and chose the flattened area where a tractor had gone in and out.
[not too unusual because my older mule will do the same thing.]

Into the woods we went.
She knew home was to our west and wanted to plow through the underbrush and berry briers to get there. No fear of improper footing here! Over rocks, logs, and around bushes we went...

I directed her along to where there is a deer trail.
She followed that like a trooper.
Then we came to a deep wash out.

Because I didn't know how she'd react, and because I was alone in the woods [with some potential 'bad' spots if I got dumped], I worked her back and forth until she seemed comfortable.

I can tell you one thing. There sure isn't a round pen or arena in the world that can teach these lessons to a young mule [or horse].

Siera is the real deal.
Next venture out will be with an older mule to build her confidence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Sometimes it is a 'crap shoot'. This morning was one of those instances.

I'd gone to the ridge top to watch the sunrise with my camera in hand. It was a pretty nice sunrise, with the fog rolling in at the same time.

I tried several exposures and shots. Photographically speaking ~~ it was a 'so-so' kind of sunrise. The fog softened the colors nicely, but there was no big pizazz!

When I got home I turned around and looked up towards the shed where my husband was making Cheyenne's morning feed.
Cheyenne was pacing back and forth and suddenly she stood rock still.

I had no time to check my settings [what had I last used it on? Manual???...I didn't know]

I lifted the camera focused and prayed that it would come out.

~~~and I was WOWED.

So this morning's shooting lesson for me goes back to my Dad's philosophy on photography:

Don't study it too hard.
Have a camera in hand and be ready.

Dad always had me pretend to compose photos. He lent me his monstrous Pentax camera with the long lens and let me 'shoot' and 'compose' pictures.

He taught me how to see things as if I was looking through a lens.
He taught me how to always stop and notice [would this look good? would I compose it?]

I did it so often that it became the way I saw things.

Ironic though isn't it? I've suffered from vision problems most of my life and through the camera I am comfortable truly 'seeing'.
I have Amblyopia and had Strabisimus [which was corrected by surgery].

Yet I suffer from a certain lack of depth perception and Diplopia [faint double vision].

I grew up with it, so this is normal for me.

So I truly do see differently that others!!!

But...what a wonderful world I see...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Memories of a kid~The Big Bull

My sister and I started out across the corn field. We were barefoot as usual, wearing t-shirts and shorts. We'd finished our morning chores in our grandparents' garden and had been told that we could *go out and play*.

Our summer home was smack dab in the middle of now-where ... miles from town and at least a mile or so it seemed from the nearest neighbor.

We thought we'd hike out through the cornfield and slide through the 4 strand barbed wire fence. We'd be in Uncle Stanley's woods where he kept cattle.
We intended on wandering around to find a respectable climbing tree that we could turn into a fort.
Not a fort like the kind that required wood and nails, but just a good climbing tree with many branches to 'hide out in'.

We passed up some nice pines as they'd get our feet, clothes, and hands, full of pine pitch...we didn't wish to raise the ire of my mother.

My mom had hollered out as we faded into the corn ... *WATCH out for the Big Bull!*

Those words echoed in our heads as we climbed through the barbed wire fence.
*What would you do if you saw The Bull right now?* my sister asked.

We moved into the woods.

*I'd climb a tree.* I glanced around. *Did you hear that????*
My sister nodded and we were positive we'd heard THE BULL.

We scrambled up the the nearest oak tree like two little monkeys.

*See anything?*
*Nope. You?*

So there we were, stuck in a massive old oak tree, peering at the heavily wooded forest around us.

*Think he is out there?*
*Grandpa said he was a mean bull.*
*Yeah, I know. Big?*
*Really Big?*
*Think he'd hurt us?*

We fell silent. We'd talked ourselves into a bit of a fright. Two young girls, sitting in an old oak the woods.

*Could he get us up here?*
*I dunno, maybe.*

We climbed higher.

*What if he keeps us here 'til dark. Think anyone would come along?*

But it was food for thought.
*Maybe he'd go back to the barn when it is feeding time.*
*Maybe...unless he is really mad at us.*
*Why would he be mad?*
*Well we are in his pasture. That just might do it.*
*Oh. Right.*


We sat for hours in that old ancient oak tree, positive that The Big Bull was out there. We sat with the dappled sunlight filtering down on us and discussed all of our escape routes and options.

We did make it back home before dark.
We were brave.

Mom asked us if we'd had fun.

*Yup,* we'd answered, vowing never to return.

We never did either. Nor did we ever see the Big Bull and sometimes I wonder if he wasn't a fabricated 'monster' just to keep us from wandering to far into the woods.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Morning by Mule...

Words just don't do it justice...

..and thanks to Mr. Mule:
Badger for his wonderful cooperation.

We found many 'dew' decorated spider webs.

Morris, Badger, and I had a wonderful peaceful morning!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trust, ... you have to earn it.

I had a different story written for today that had nothing to do with mules.

Yeah I truly did.

But guess what, Siera took first place.
We spent most of the afternoon exploring each other's likes and dislikes. She explored her trust in me, and I explored my trust in her.

We needed to build confidence in the deep woodlands.
Open trails are fine.
Steep ravines and confusing deer trails take more consideration.

Siera is looking for leadership and the trust in me that I shall not ask her to do something that will get her in trouble.

Both of us arrived at home after 3 hrs in the woods, sweaty and happy.
She learned that dry washes and nasty looking ditches may just not eat her after all.

I learned that she likes the big open trail ... or to cruise magnificently down the back roads, gaiting in all of her splendor.

We are learning that trust is good. I won't get her into trouble, and I believe she'll do her damnedest not to get me in trouble.

This makes for a good relationship.

All is good. Siera earned her grooming tonight.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not every ride is perfect

Not every ride on a young mule is perfect.

Siera did well, we traveled down the country road where we stopped and visited with 'mule' eating cattle.

She locked her legs and stared ... and stared ... and stared.

I find that with some mules it is okay to let them look.

Suddenly you get a big sigh that you can feel and hear.

Then Siera was ready to move on with one ear cocked towards my neighbor's curious looking animals.

We did the road riding ~~ she was eager and pleasant.
Next we decided to head down the hillside near my house.

This is where we had some challenges.
Nothing bad.
Just pull on the bit, try to rush down the hill [we are talking about a heavily forested hillside with lots of trees and downed tree tops...logs, stumps, berry briers, multi flora rose, and rocks] kind of hillside.

She wanted to rush towards home.

This was unacceptable in my book.

So each time she tried to rush down hill, she ended up doing serpentines around trees and back to the top.

We did the hillside numerous times.







We even came up upon the now 'infamous' trophy buck with a rack to die for! He bounced up out of a dead-fall of trees and crashed through the woods sounding like a 40 ft tall Black Mule Eating Bear!

Good girl, she watched.

[I think I was more surprised than she!]

Over huge logs, around trees, through brush.

In the end she walked mostly quietly towards home.

She stood very nicley while I talked with hubby.
Non of this is unexpected in a young molly mule.

It wasn't a picture perfect ride but then is there ever one?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The end of the day...

In my life there is seldom things that make me just go...

Tonight was one of those.

I rode Siera today.
No pictures for obvious reasons.
We went in and out of the woods and did hills and ravines.
Let me say that she did well and the ride was fantastic.

Tonight I wanted to go with a couple of the 'old timers'. Fred, my husbands pony mule of 24 yrs of age? ... and Badger, who is around 14 yrs old.

We went out to watch the sun set and look at the leaves which are starting to change colors.

One word of caution.

Old mules can be stupid~er than some young mules.

Tonight ... ol' faithful Badger decided that after a few hours of riding~~when I asked him to step through some thistles...he gave a 'bump'. I was instantly sitting on his neck and
then slid down off his head.

My hubby was frantic...
'Was I okay?'
'Did I get hurt?'

I tried to convince him it was a new way of dismounting and I thought we'd try a circus act...

Just when you think 'old reliable' is perfect, he'll pull one on you.
Just means that you always have to pay attention when mounted on a mule, doesn't it???

Our evening ride was fantastic.

My day ride with Siera?

Oh La La! She is something else.

Big bucks don't bother her.
I'm thinking that I am beginning to really really like her!

Don't tell Badger!

[Or was that the reason for the neck sliding tonight??? ;-)]

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A little campfire fun

The day was spent in preparation for a little family 'fun~together' hot dog [weenie] roast and marshmallow roast over a little campfire.

Gather the wood,
Gather the kids,

add chairs, picnic table, and let the sun go down...

mix in a little conversation and a lot of laughter~~

What do you end up with?

Great and wonderful memories created over the closeness of family ties and a little tiny 'driveway' campfire.

Not to mention the fantastic star gazing that occurred later on that night.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What I feel

How to describe it?

It's the feel of the warm September breeze on your face...

The buzz of locusts and the sound of hooves on the gravel road...

Pure Joy.

While moving down the country road on that first long ride with an animal that you've worked with for two years.
Satisfaction and pleasure, as she moves like silk under saddle...

Her ears alternating between the 'mule ear flop' and pointing at her new world.

She covers open ground at an amazing pace which makes you want to hold your breath, or wonder if you should check your teeth for bugs. [your smile is huge!]

She slows as she hears a car coming towards you. It is the mail carrier who gives a big hardy wave. This does not bother her, she gives the vehicle a look of curiosity.

Later she is covering ground at her Paso gait and a doe steps out from between corn rows.

All 4 hooves grab the road and her legs stiffen. She gives the doe a long hard look that says *I eat deer*....and moves on.

You want to laugh as she steps out again, the late summer sun is warm, the breeze is slight...and you can smell fall just around the corner.

Instead you let out a whoop of pleasure [she takes this in stride also].

This is just so sweet.
And you are happy.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Siera and the Monsters...

Siera is a gaited 'Peruvian Paso' mule which means her dam was pure Peruvian Paso and her dad of course was a donkey.
She has inherited the Paso gait which actually means 'step' in Spanish. She is not related to Paso Finos which are of another breed.
Peruvian Pasos are breed for the longer stride to travel long distances at a 4 beat gait.

Yesterday was ride #2 outside in the big world.
With her friends in the 'mare' pasture running like banshees, donkeys braying, hound dogs barking, and chickens crossing her path~~she took it all in stride.

After a few passes through the yard [I couldn't get into the round pen to lunge her first...hubby had it blocked with his pick up]...I decided to head up the driveway and take some short tours into the woods.

All went perfect until we got to the bottom of the shared driveway with the house on top of the hill [it is for sale and empty].
Siera stopped, her ears pointed so hard that the tips nearly touched. She locked her legs and stared hard towards the neighbor's house.

I slid off her and attached a lead rope.
She stood rock still watching.

Fairly quickly, a van roared into sight from behind the house towards us. The driver never even looked our way.
The back doors of the van were open ~~ and as he went past us, things began to spew out of the flapping doors.
A shop vac bounced crazily on the gravel.
Tools clattered against rocks.
A coiled hose and an electrical cord bounced out...and the driver continued his crazy drive up the hill and away.

Siera stood quietly through out the whole 'ordeal'.
I decided that I'd move all the stuff over to the side so when I had to leave for work I wouldn't have to drive over the mess.

Siera nonchalantly followed me and sniffed out the strange 'monster' items. She curiously smelled the shop vac and tools.

I was very pleased.
Remount and ride back home.
Lesson done for the day.

She's going to be a keeper in my opinion.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Oh what a great little mule!

Meet Siera...all saddled up and ready to go!

Today we graduated from the round pen and the fenced pastures. We had our first ride out of confinement.
...and it was sweet.
She also had her first 'water bottle' training. She was startled when I took a long drink from it.

When we were finished with 'water bottle training', she was fine with water being squirted on her head, ears, neck, and all of the strange and odd noises I could think of to make while slurping up water.

We rode up the driveway, a bit into the woods, and practiced standing still.

She is ready for the trails. Yee haw!!!

Yes, she looks like Badger, but is only 14 hands as opposed to his 15...and she has a brand and some different coloring in her face.
When she is startled, she simply picks up her ears and 'gaites' out fast.

I can ask her to whoa and she will.

By the end of our ride, she had those big beautiful ears flapping.

What a good girl.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yard Hens

A co~worker asked me if I'd like some chickens.

Now, I haven't had chickens in years. I love chickens. I love their contented little clucks they give while hunting bugs and eating grass.

I love fresh eggs.
Not the pale store eggs you find in the store.

I love brown shelled eggs, for me, they somehow just taste better.

Day one of the yard chickens went well.

They clucked and fussed and wandered about.
Two hens decided to take over one of our hound dog houses~~while he watched on ... not sure what to do.

My Jack Russell thought it was fun to chase them, 'til I popped him in the butt with a whip.

The mules who've never seen chickens really watched with their ears on alert. They'll soon get used to them, I'm sure.

Last night they went back into the shed that we released them in, and roosted.

Next on the list is nesting boxes, roosts...and a place for them in the winter.

Chickens are cool.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

This time of year

The wren has packed her bags and left, taking her wren family with her.

I miss her scolding me.

The Robins are mostly gone, we hear a stray one talking once in a while...and we pause to listen to them.

The Morning Doves have been gathering. I think they too have packed their bags and are thinking about migrating out of here.

But the humming birds are still whirring, flitting, and busy as ever.

Last night in the evening sky I saw the first small flock of geese heading south along the Mississippi River.

They say summer ends with Labor Day.
For me, it is when the summer birds have gone, leaving the outside noises to crickets, grasshoppers, the screech of the bluejay, and the cawing of crows.

While walking in the woods with Morris yesterday, we came across a lone dead tree. Perched on it were several turkey buzzards. They migrate also.
What an ugly bird. I checked and both Morris and I were alive ;-).

Turkey buzzards generally are very good indicators that there is a dead animal or carrion nearby.
Perhaps they too were gathering for migration.

The chickadees and cardinals are in the woods and will keep us full of bird song through the fall and winter.

But the light is changing, the nights are getting cold, and fall is heading towards us at full tilt.

Yet I don't think I am prepared for it.
Am I ever?